How to become a UX Designer (No experience or degree required)
If you’ve recently found yourself browsing career websites and job postings wondering, “what does a UX designer do?” and more importantly, “how can I be a UX designer?”—you’re not alone.
Working as a UX/UI designer is one of the most rewarding, in-demand jobs in the market at the moment. Whether you’re looking to work remotely, within a team, or if you’re just looking for a career that combines creativity with problem-solving technology, UX design might be your dream job.
In this article, we will cover everything you need to know to jumpstart your kickass career as a UX/UI designer:
- Do you need a degree to be a UX designer?
- Do you need to take a UX designer course?
- The 6 easy steps to becoming a UX designer
- The tools you need to become a UX designer
- The right UX designer mindset
(Psst. Feeling a little lost and wondering what a UX/UI designer does? We got you covered)
How to Become a UX Designer
Good news! You can absolutely begin your journey to becoming a UX designer if you have zero experience in the UX/UI design space.
UX/UI design is one of those rare career paths where skills are entirely transferrable. Not only that, but the skills you gain as a designer can be highly desirable in other career paths. One look at the list of skills a UX designer needs will tell you everything you need to know.
It’s important to understand, though, that you will need experience and training to get UX designer jobs. The difference is you won’t need them to start your UX design journey.
Many UX/UI designs speak openly about how they became UX/UI designers without experience or a degree. You only need to look at YouTube to find an endless supply of UX designers who entered the industry with zero experience and took different paths. This is because every designer’s career path is different. It’s up to you to decide how you want to do it.
For example, Product Designer ChunBuns speaks at length about how they became a UX designer with zero experience using a paid course. On the other hand, UX/UI designer Rachel How shares their journey to becoming a UX/UI designer in 3-months, which they did entirely self-taught.
The point is that there is no one set path to becoming a UX/UI designer. You can take what you know from experience and previous roles, educate and upskill, and easily assimilate to UX design.
For example, a study conducted by Digital Skills Survey found that 65% of UX designers began their careers in the design field. This is because these designers then made the decision to specialize in UX design in order to “gain a competitive edge in the job market”.
With the prospect of a dream career at your fingertips or a competitive advantage in your current career, it’s no wonder that you want to become a UX/UI designer.
6 Steps to Becoming a UX Designer (With Zero Experience)
What you’ll need:
- Internet access
Before we get into the recipe for becoming a game-changing UX designer, make sure you truly know what UX design is, and what a UX designer does. The design world can be confusing, and you want to make sure you know what you’re setting out to do.
Once you’re comfortable with that, it’s time to start becoming a UX/UI designer.
1. Acquire UX Design Fundamentals
To become a UX Designer, the first step is to learn and develop a number of UX design fundamentals.
You’ll need to understand how to conduct user research and strategy, both of which require data collection and analysis. Be good at accepting feedback and analyzing responses. As a UX designer, you’ll need to provide solutions and options for both users and stakeholders.
Wireframing and prototyping, user interface (UI) design aspects, and even responsive web design are all foundational skills you need to understand before you start any project.
A great way to get all of the right fundamentals squared away is through The Designership’s Figma Masterclass. Each lesson takes you step-by-step through the must-knows, including the newest chapter on Smart Animate, UI Motion Design Principles, planning a Prototyping Sequence, building a Figma Prototype, and mastering Interactive Components.
In addition to technical skills, you’ll also need a solid foundation of soft skills. Project management, collaboration across teams, good communication skills—aside from being critical UX/UI skills, are also incredibly valuable skills to have in the job market in general. Hello, impressive CV!
As a UX designer, you’ll frequently be working with other designers, internal and external stakeholders, and even across different timezones. There are so many moving parts on one single product design, including developers, marketers, and even Product Designers, which is different from a UX designer. That’s why communication is so crucial. You need to be able to communicate and understand certain design decisions.
It’s these basic skills that separate a good designer from a brilliant designer. That’s why it’s critical that you square away the fundamentals before diving into the deep end of UX/UI design.
2. Learn the Best UX Design Tools
UX designers rely on a range of different digital tools in order to design user experiences. Each designer has their own individual preference for a design tool. However, the most used tool in the market is Figma.
Being skilled in a universal tool that’s easy-to-use and incredibly intuitive helps to solve any cross-translation issues between designers. If you all know how to use the same tool, it’s easier to work together.
As a beginner in the UX design world, you’ll want to get a subscription that won’t break the bank. Figma’s Starter Tier is perfect for entry-level or aspiring designers. You can explore the software for free, forever, with unlimited personal files and collaborators. Plus, the Figma community is bursting with free plugins and kits, so you can really get your hands dirty designing in Figma without spending a cent.
There are so many more reasons why Figma is the go-to tool of the industry, but for now, just know that it’s the best tool for a beginner UX designer to use.
Some other tools you might want to become familiar with as a junior UX designer include:
- Trello (Project Management)
- Notion (Documentation)
- Slack (Team communication)
- Zoom (Video communication)
To learn UX design, you need to learn UX design from someone else. Either a paid course or a free course is the best avenue to take.
You have two options when it comes to mastering the UX skill:
- Paid courses
- Unpaid courses
Paid courses can be costly. Yet when you consider that you’re investing in your future and a lucrative career path, the cost of a course is justified. However, if you’re currently not in a comfortable financial position to do a paid course, or if you’re not sure if you’re ready to commit to the UX/UI design industry, there are plenty of free courses available.
Paid courses are the best option for most aspiring designers. With a paid course, you’re paying for higher quality content and a comprehensive syllabus. They also have the added benefit of accountability. When you pay for something, you’re less likely to slack off.
A paid course will often include access to exclusive design communities. The Designership community is why so many people choose to study with us. Our students love bouncing ideas, discussing design topics, asking for help, and sharing projects.
The paid aspect also creates a “skill gateway” in which you’re only surrounded by other designers of the same caliber. Everyone is on the same page as you!
If you’re ready to enroll in a paid course, check out this full list of The Best Paid Figma Design Courses (updated for 2022). You can check out prices and costs for enrollment, course curriculum, and see which course will be the one for you.
For unpaid courses, you’ll need to put in a little more effort to get to the same level as the paid courses. This doesn’t mean that free courses aren’t as good (we released some of the highest-quality design lessons on YouTube for free, weekly). It just means that you’ll have to put in a little more effort and be wary of knowledge gaps.
There are great free UX/UI design course resources available on YouTube, including the Designership YouTube channel. We’ve also compiled a list of The Best Free Figma Courses (updated for 2022), so you can begin your UX/UI design career without spending a cent.
3. Join a Design Community
The best part about the UX/UI design realm? The design communities!
Spend some time in these communities and chat with other designers to find out how, and why, they made their design decisions. The more you immerse yourself within the UX design world, the better you’ll become as a designer.
Chat with others in forums, watch tutorials, discuss design decisions, and even reach out to a few big designers to pick their brains. UX/UI designers are renowned for being welcoming and helpful, so you’ll easily be able to discuss and learn something. Who knows what tips and tricks you’ll pick up?
Spending time among others in the community can also help you to develop your own design style. As you explore and examine others’ creative choices, you’ll be able to find a style and niche that suits you.
If you’ve enrolled in a UX/UI design course, you probably already have access to one design community.
Some other great UX design dedicated communities are:
- The Designership Community
- User Experience Design, Reddit
- User Design Experience, LinkedIn
- Ladies That UX
- Design Gigs For Good
Plus hundreds of other design communities for every niche in the market. Explore each community and find one that inspires you.
4. Play Around and Develop Your UX Design Skills
Now that you have your fundamentals, education, and a community of inspiration, here comes the fun part: UX/UI design playtime!
Figma is a great tool to sandbox designs and really flex your creative muscle.
Playing around with your design tool is a must-do before you get your first client or land a job. After all, practice makes perfect.
Use it as an opportunity to sample all kinds of designs to see what works for you. A great way to do this is to find a designer that you like, and try to emulate one of their creations. Platforms like Dribbble or Bēhance are a great place to browse and find someone whose work speaks to you.
Remember that you’re not just trying to mimic how the designs look. You’re trying to gain an understanding of why the design looks and performs a certain way.
To really turbocharge your designs, make sure you get the Designership Shipfaster UI (our new Figma UI Kit & Design System).
The newest version of our much-loved Figma UI Kit & Design System, you’ll get access to 6,000+ Figma components that are easy-to-use, customizable, and help to supercharge your workflow.
As your UX/UI design skills develop, you’ll be able to move on from mimicking a design to creating your own.
Keep track of the wonderful designs you make, you might be able to add them to your portfolio (step 6).
Who knows when a future client might ask if you can create a mobile app for luxury watches, and you can dive into your collection and show them exactly what they need.
5. Develop a Portfolio to Showcase Your UX Design Work
Now that you’re getting into the habit of honing your design skills, it’s time to create a portfolio to showcase your UX design work.
Compiling a portfolio is often where aspiring UX designers get stuck. Lots of people hold back on sharing their portfolio, thinking that a client only wants to see paid work. Problem is, as a beginner designer, you don’t have any paid work.
You’ll see these questions floating around forums: how many projects should I have in a UX design portfolio? Do I need paid work in my UX design portfolio? How do you make a good UX portfolio?
Well, it’s simple.
The first rule to building a winning UX design portfolio is to remember that the portfolio with the most examples or most variety isn’t necessarily better than others. A client or employer is looking to see if you can do a specific skill they are in need of.
Sure, your colorful, highly-animated designs for a makeup brand’s website are impressive. But if you’re pitching to a client who doesn’t need color or elaborate animation, they’re not going to resonate with your work.
A better approach is to do some background research into the company or clients you’d like to work with. What kind of design style do they prefer to use? Do they have a lot of animations, colors, a specific font—these kinds of questions can help guide your portfolio.
Review the pieces you have in your portfolio, and select roughly five pieces that speak directly to whom you want to target.
If you don’t have anything in your folio, there’s only one thing to do: try and create something that aligns with their vision. A mock design that’s in alignment with what a client needs will always stand out against paid work that misses the mark.
If you’re someone who already has a rough portfolio, or if you’re unsure if your portfolio is on the right track, check out this video where we redesign an entire portfolio to make it client-ready.
Remember: the only way to grow your portfolio is to design more.
6. Keep Learning
Now that you’ve gained some key UX design skills and got a portfolio to showcase your work, there’s only one thing left to do: keep going!
Unlike many other careers, UX/UI design is an ongoing skill. Your role as a designer requires you to continuously be upskilling, exploring new design trends, and updating your portfolio regularly.
Courses, tutorials, how-tos, even chatting with other designers in the community are great ways to improve your design skills. If you can, make an effort every day to spend some time in the design world. Your clients will thank you, later.
Sounds overwhelming? Don’t worry, it’s not as stressful as it sounds. Upskilling in UX design can be done at your own pace, in your own time. Something as simple as watching a designer discussing a trend on YouTube while you brush your teeth can be a way to tighten your UX design skills.
Often if you’re feeling overwhelmed and as though you can’t keep up with your peers is linked to imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome as a designer is a real problem, and can lead to burnout, a loss of passion for design, and even have you questioning your career. Don’t let it hold you back, you can combat imposter syndrome as a UX designer in a number of different ways.
The Right Mindset to Becoming a UX Designer
Ready to become the unicorn designer you always wanted to be? Good news! Because just by reading this guide, you’re already on your way.
Before you completely give yourself over to the wonderfully addictive world of UX design, remember that it’s important that you don’t fall in love with the title alone. It’s very easy to do! Instead, fall in love with the work you do. You’ll find it more enriching and enjoyable to do something you love.
Many people think that completing a course, throwing together a portfolio, and ticking off the checklist of things to do will land them a job. Becoming a UX designer is not just a case of changing your profession on LinkedIn—if it were that easy, everyone would be one!
Instead, it’s about finding a love for solving problems, empathizing with clients and users, and working to design beautiful and delightful interfaces. UX/UI design combines being technical with a large dose of creativity. Don’t forget why you want to be a UX/UI designer, and be patient—the clients will come when they see your passion in your work!
So, are you ready to start your dream UX designer career? Before you start, check out this guide to what a day in the life of a UX designer looks like.